Vale Doug Lorimer, veteran socialist, 1953-2013

Doug Lorimer.
Friday, July 26, 2013

Doug Lorimer, a life-long committed revolutionary, died on July 21 in Sydney after a year of fighting deteriorating ill health and long term hospitalisation.

Lorimer was born April 17, 1953 in Dundee in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents Connie and Bill when he was four years old to settle in the South Australian steel town of Whyalla.

Lorimer radicalised as a high school student. He first became involved in left politics through the Australian movement against the imperialist war in Vietnam, when he and his mother joined the moratorium marches in Adelaide in 1970.

Lorimer was recruited to the Socialist Youth Alliance — which later became the youth organisation Resistance — aged 16 in late 1971 in his final year in high school. He then went on to enrol in a science degree majoring in physics at Flinders University.

He dropped out of the degree during his first year as his commitment to building a revolutionary party grew. However, his interest in science never waned.

He attended the founding conference of the Socialist Workers League (SWL) in January 1972, and was the SWL organiser in Adelaide until the mid-1970s. While organising, Lorimer worked for a few years in a chicken factory where he became the shop steward.

He was also active in Young Labor, the youth organisation of the ALP. Lorimer edited the Young Labor newsletter Insight in 1974, and was a delegate to National Young Labor. He even won the National Young Labor executive position of delegate to the federal ALP conference.

Visits to Australia by leading British Marxist Tariq Ali and US Marxist philosopher George Novack reinforced his commitment to international solidarity. Lorimer was always intrigued by philosophy with a scientific bent and Frederic Engels’ Dialectics of Nature was a favourite.

He was elected to the main leadership bodies of the party from 1974 and from then on played a leading role in the party and took on any assignment given to him. He spent time as a member in multiple state branches as well as taking on many roles in the party’s national office.

Lorimer took part in delegations to big conferences and meetings of the Fourth International (FI) and worked two years in the early 1980s at the FI centre in Paris.

He played a big role with Jim Percy in preparation and analysis on which the decision of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to disaffiliate from the FI was taken in 1986. He later became international secretary of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) for a time.

Having changed its name to the SWP to run in federal elections in 1975, the SWP then became the DSP in 1989 and later participated in the formation of the Socialist Alliance in 2001.

During this period, Lorimer worked full-time on the party paper as a journalist, editor and production worker on Direct Action from the late 1970s until 1991, when Green Left Weekly was launched, then on GLW until 2009, when he left the DSP and joined the Revolutionary Socialist Party — a group that split from the DSP on the question of the appropriate form of revolutionary Marxist party in the current political period. The RSP merged into Socialist Alternative this year.

Lorimer’s main strength however was his role as a writer and educator on Marxist theory and history.

Percy and Dave Holmes established the curriculum for a four-month party school for small groups of activist in 1981 and ran the classes for the first couple of intakes. Later Lorimer led these classes and later assumed the role of organising the school until 1992 when it closed and shorter forms of intensive education school series were established. On several occasions he conducted classes on Marxism with socialist activists in Indonesia and Timor.

Lorimer was a prolific writer. He wrote many articles, prepared many drafts for discussion on the party’s leading bodies and delivered many reports. He supported the publications the party produced and wrote many incisive introductions to important historical classics such as The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism by Leon Trotsky.

He also wrote analytic pamphlets of revolutionary experiences such as his excellent pamphlet on Cuba, The Cuban Revolution and its Leadership. His interest in philosophy led to a series of pamphlets on Marxist dialectics and historical materialism.

The range of his writings serves as a historical heritage for the revolutionary left. Most of the books and book introductions written by Lorimer are compiled at Links online journal.

Lorimer lived an interesting, varied and fulfilling life. He was a unique personality. He had his own style of presentation and interaction. He loved nothing better than a critical political discussion, a good Cuban cigar and tot of Cuban rum, and if that wasn’t available, then a good dram of whiskey.

But what was fundamental to his life was his absolute commitment to life-long revolutionary activity and building a party; his “scientific” approach to understanding everything, from his thoroughly historical materialist approach to human history and society to the physical sciences and, in particular, the origins and workings of the universe which fascinated him.

He had a voracious appetite for reading and ideas. He believed that learning was a never-ending process. He read constantly, and re-read books he considered important dozens of times over. Finally there was his love of classical music — especially Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphonies.

Lorimer's lifelong contribution will be missed by the Australian socialist movement.

[Pat Brewer is a member of the Socialist Alliance and was a longtime national leader in the DSP.]